Official: Reports that IOC will punish athletes for wearing pride pins are untrue

A high ranking official with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) told LGBTQ Nation on Wednesday that published reports that the IOC would punish LGBT athletes or allies for acts such as wearing pride pins or holding hands, are “misleading” and “mischaracterized.”

The IOC official, who agreed to talk with LGBTQ Nation on the condition of anonymity, said that the IOC was not prepared to walk “lock-step” with the Russian law against “homosexual propaganda,” but rather apply a common sense approach for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Ignat Kozlov, AP
Olympic rings for the 2014 Winter Olympics installed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, in southern Russia.

When specifically asked if this meant that Olympians, LGBT or otherwise, would be penalized for acts such as wearing pride pins or articles of clothing indicating support for the LGBT community, the official said “absolutely not.”

The IOC, is however, intent on preventing incidents of “political grandstanding,” in accordance with Rule 50 of the IOC’s charter, the official said.

That rule mandates “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

The official said that Rule 50 applies to “egregious” behavior, and that a protest or demonstration from the podium, such as an athlete openly denouncing the Russian Government or an impromptu display during an event or the opening or closing ceremonies, would be seen as a violation of the rule.

Rule 50 has been “mischaracterized” by the activist community and makes no mention of pride pins, the official said.

LGBTQ Nation also confirmed from two Olympic officials that, to date, there has been no advisement or directive warning Olympians from wearing pride pins, arm bands or any other display of LGBT solidarity, and that the IOC has never asserted that it plans to take action against athletes for doing so.

Regardless, the officiaal said, any incidents would be evaluated on an case by case basis and that a “sensible approach” would be taken “depending on what was said or done.”

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The official noted, however, that the IOC has no say or control over a host country’s laws and always advises athletes and teams to respect each host nation’s laws.

The anti-gay “propaganda” law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 29, prohibits anyone from distributing information with the “intention” of persuading minors that nontraditional sexual relationships are “attractive” or “interesting,” or even “socially equivalent to traditional relationships.”

The law does not outlaw gay sex, which was legalized in Russia in 1993, and does not explicitly ban participation in gay pride parades or promotion of LGBT equality online, however, anyone wearing a rainbow flag on the street or writing about gay relationships on Facebook, for example, could be accused of propagandizing.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has said foreign athletes would be expected “to respect the laws of the country,” and the Interior Ministry, which controls the state police force, said Monday the anti-gay law will be enforced during the Olympics.

However, enforcement of the law within the Olympic village and its venues, for simple acts such as holding hands or wearing pride pins, is unlikely, according to the IOC official, but he did caution that such acts could be viewed as a violation of the law on the streets of Sochi.

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